This is not a performance. This is not a show. Revolution, poetry, politics, music, film and dance careen. This is contemporary African positive punk - raw and ravishing - bone shattering, electric music with sinewy celebration. Intoxication. Rebellion. Gyration. Skin to Skin. Soul to Soul. Screaming. This is real life, a political statement, an in-your-face, full-blown artistic response to living on a precipice.
When the floor is a precipice and you come from The Democratic Republic of Congo, a country raped by colonialism, corruption, and brutal massacre, how do you take a stand? When your childhood friend, a poet and political prisoner, is on death row in his 9th year of captivity, how do you respond? Escapism, depression, more violence, suicide? Dare you think about moving forward?
More more more… future immediately dares us. Inciting us, as we walk into the space with stares from the band. Are they accusing, or on watchful duty? One man in glittering gold from head to toe knits his brow together and silently glowers. Later his resonant voice rattles my body and jolts the room as he roars lines of poetry by Antoine Vumilia Muhindo that are simultaneously projected behind him on the wall.
and his dynamic collaborators carry us directly inside the screaming heart of pop music and popular dancing of the Congo.
In beer soaked clubs this movement is about escaping.
On the concert stage these artists pour every ounce of their sweaty beings into remembering, addressing and moving forward.
“Turn off the music for amnesiacs.” “We no longer have time.” “Make a divine mess,” he bellows. “Look,” he demands of the audience and his fellow performers. A singer, jovial in a suit of crinkly patchwork, cavorts and jams only to have his showy act upstaged as the golden giant yells in his ear. They unite in rebellious screams.
The imagery in the text sears. Stop “flirting with a tiny raft of cosmetic democracies,” “flags, clumsy fauvist paintings for the half-blind,” "burn icons alive.”
The music of Flamme Kapaya, the African rock star, who got his name from an 80’s comic book hero, Captain Flamme, is so LOUD, I feel it inside my bones and my heart. Spiritual possession is not out of the question.
Men in tight leggings travel across the stage, rocking, undulating and braiding themselves together as tangled roots. At one point they don fantastically riotous coats: huge, pillowed petticoats-gone-wrong. It’s unnatural. They are imprisoned in those things. Reduced from men of flesh and blood to puffy, giant Easter eggs trapped in rag-tag European patterns. They move like quirky little chicks-no more undulating. Xuly Bët ‘s outrageous design acknowledges and repudiates the unnatural cruelty of a “republic” where the people have never been allowed to be themselves. The removal of "the other man’s coat" frees the dance again.
Faustin Lineykula and his dynamic collaborators carry us directly inside the screaming heart of pop music and popular dancing of the Congo. In beer soaked clubs this movement is about escaping. On the concert stage these artists pour every ounce of their sweaty beings into remembering, addressing and moving forward.
The imagery in the text sears.
Stop “flirting with a tiny raft of cosmetic democracies.”
“Flags, clumsy fauvist paintings for the half-blind.”
"Burn icons alive.”
This is not a performance. This is not a show. I couldn’t clap at the end or stand up to give the performers an ovation. How can one clap as people crack open their souls on stage?
It seems blasphemous.
The world can be hell; we can either give in to the downward spiral or create. In more more more...future, Linyekula challenges us to act. He has. In 2006 Linyekula moved his Studios Kabako, a center for art, ideas, and exchange to Kisangani, a city still recovering from a legacy of slavery, torture and murder.
“To be positive is the most subversive,” he says.